How To Easily Create & Annotate PDF Documents

Jeffry Thurana 19-03-2010

Among the different types of documents that exist today, PDF is one of the most used. PDF is popular because it can hold the consistency of the document. Publishing a document in PDF is like printing it on paper. So the document’s appearance will stay the same wherever you look at it. That’s why many electronic publications like e-books are in PDF.


But this “highly uneditable” feature is also PDF’s disadvantage to other “easily editable” formats like txt, rtf and doc. While it’s possible to create PDF documents with fillable forms (you can download an example of such a thing from Adobe’s site), the creation process requires advanced PDF tools – which are expensive and not accessible by most people.

how to create pdf documents

So should we get the expensive PDF tools just to create a so-called interactive document? If you are using Mac, there are better solutions to this problem. Mac systems come with native tools to create and annotate PDF documents easily.

How to Create PDF Documents

We’ll start with the easy part: creating the PDF. When I first switched to Mac, I searched all over the web for an application to create PDF documents without knowing that this ability already comes natively with Mac.

All you have to do is “print” the document using the “File > Print” menu or “Command + P” shortcut.


how to create pdf documents mac

Then, instead of clicking the “Print” button, you click the “PDF” button and choose the “Save as PDF” option.

how to create pdf documents

The Save window is pretty basic, you write down the file name and you choose the save location.


create pdf documents mac

But there’s an additional feature that you can apply to the document: security. Click the “Security Options” button and a new window will appear, letting you put in a password to open the document, to copy the content, and to print the document. All you have to do is to check the box(es) in front of your security choice(s) and write down the preferred password(s).

05 PDF Security Options.png

After everything is set, you can click the “OK” and “Save” buttons.


Annotating A PDF

The default Mac OS X document opener (and also a PDF reader) – Preview, has an underused feature called Annotate. This ability allows users to slightly modify, including adding notes, ordinary PDF documents. While completely editing the PDF is still out of the question, it’s possible to fill in any PDF form using the annotation feature.

When you open PDF with Preview, you’ll quickly see the “Annotate” icon in the toolbar. This feature is also accessible from the “Tools > Annotate” menu.

06 Annotate Tool.jpg

Clicking the icon will open up the Annotate bar at the bottom of the window.


07 Annotation bar.png

There are several annotation tools available for you to use. You can add:

  • Arrow (Command + Control + A)
  • Oval (Command + Control + O)
  • Rectangle (Command + Control + R)
  • Text (Command + Control + T)
  • Note (Command + Control + N)
  • and Link (Command + Control + L)

You can also modify the text by giving it:

  • Highlight (Command + Control + H)
  • Strike through (Command + Control + S)
  • and Underline (Command + Control + U)

09 Annotated PDF.jpg

After annotating the PDF, you can select and view those annotations quickly by opening the sidebar and choose the annotation view.

10 Annotation Sidebar.jpg

And don’t forget to save the document if you want to keep your annotations.

To those who often create PDF documents, these features might not look impressive. But for ordinary folks like me who have just discovered the tools, this annotation ability will surely come in handy.

Other alternative PDF readers/editors that you can try are: FormulatePro Overcome Online Forms With Formulatepro [Mac] Read More and Skim.

Do you feel that your life is surrounded by PDFs? Do you annotate your documents? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.

Related topics: PDF, PDF Editor.

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  1. Rose
    April 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    You could go to File -> Print, then Open PDF in Preview, I've not found random PDFs lurking in my Documents yet from doing this.

  2. Bryant
    April 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks! How do I print annotations w/o saving? In 10.6.3, when I print something from safari and I annotate, then print, the annotations do not print. I have to save first.

    • Jeffry Thurana
      April 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      Personally, I don't get why you would want to annotate and not saving the annotated PDF, but you could either: save - print - and then delete the annotation, or print two PDF copies and annotate only one then delete it.

  3. MissCheska
    March 19, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Great! Even more reason for me to switch over to Macs! ;) For those with PCs and Microsoft Works, Microsoft offers a free PDF extension for download. Just save the file as usual and replace doc/docx/xls to PDF in the pulldown bar.

  4. Lublin fotografia
    March 19, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Creating PDF file is always a problem for me. Thanks for article.